A study released this month by the Florida-Caribbean Cruise Association shows that overall, cruise ship passengers visiting the U.S. Virgin Islands were very satisfied with their visit.
On a scale of one to 10, cruise-ship visitors gave the territory a 7.9 in overall satisfaction and a 7.4 when asked if their visit met their expectations.
Although the survey doesn’t specify which island the passengers visited, the overwhelming majority of cruise ships stop on St. Thomas, with many passengers making day trips to St. John. By comparison, St. Croix gets a smaller number of cruise ship visits.
Courtesy of employees when shopping topped the satisfaction list for passengers visiting the Virgin Islands with an 8.2 rating, and friendliness of residents came in just behind at 8.1.
While every category got a rating of seven or better, when asked if they were likely to return, passengers gave it only a 5.4 rating. They rated the territory six on the likelihood of recommending a cruise that stopped in the Virgin Islands.
By comparison, St. Maarten, which topped the list in passenger spending, got a rating of 8.2 on their overall visit. However, the likelihood of a return visit got the same rating as the Virgin Islands at 5.4, and the likelihood of making a recommendation to visit St. Maarten came in at 6.2. That was just a tad higher than the Virgin Islands.
The survey indicates passengers and crew visiting the U.S. Virgin Islands spent a total of $344.3 million in the 2014/2015 cruise ship year.
The estimated 1.8 million passengers that arrived by cruise ship accounted for $276.3 million a year in spending.
The purchase of watches and jewelry by far accounted for the biggest expenditure by passengers. The survey indicated that those who reported spending on those items spent an average of $505 on them while shopping in the Virgin Islands. Electronics trailed at $184, with items listed in the other category at $127.
However, more passengers bought shore excursions than any other category. A total of 59 percent of passengers indicated their party bought a shore excursion. If they paid for it locally, the average price was $74 but if they purchased it on board the ship or from a travel agent, it cost them $140 per party.
Clothing was next on the expenditures list at 48 percent, with food and beverages at restaurants coming in third at 47 percent.
Crews on board those cruise ships also contributed to the territory’s economy to the tune of $276.3 million a year. Like the passengers, they spent most on watches and jewelry. Their purchases averaged $205 per crew member for those who reported spending on those items.
Cruise ship passengers and crew generated direct employment of 3,396 residents. Annual wages totaled $75 million. Adding the indirect contribution that results from the spending of those local business that are the direct recipients of passenger, crew and cruise line expenditures, the direct cruise tourism expenditures generated 6,397 jobs and $141 million in wages.
About 90 percent of those jobs and wages are concentrated in the commercial and transport sectors of the territory’s economy.
The Virgin Islands had the fourth highest level of direct cruise sector expenditures with the previously noted $344.3 million in spending.
St. Maarten led all destinations with nearly $423 million, followed by the Bahamas with $373 million and Cozumel with $365 million, the Cayman Islands with $208 million was fifth, Jamaica with $199 million came in sixth and Puerto Rico with $198 million was seventh. Combined, these seven destinations with $2.1 billion in direct expenditures accounted for 67 percent of the total cruise tourism expenditures among the 35 destinations included in the study.
During the 2014/2015 cruise year cruise tourism generated $3.2 billion in direct expenditures, 75,050 jobs and $976 million in employee wages among the 35 destinations included in the study.
A total of 35 ships were involved in this survey, compared to 20 when the last survey was done in 2011/2014.
A look at the numbers for the 20 destinations included in both surveys shows that total spending went up 15 percent from $2 billion in 2011/2012 to $2.3 billion in 2014/2015.
The number of passengers to those 20 destinations also increased. It went up 7.22 percent from 15.4 million in the 2011/2012 to 16.5 million in 2014/2015.
Average passenger spending at those 20 destinations increased by 7.6 percent from $129 in 2011/2012 to $139 in the latest survey.
The Cruise Association’s contractor gathered data mainly from tourism departments across the Caribbean, the northern islands including the Bahamas, Mexico, and Central America.
Full survey results are online at www.f-cca.com/research.html